Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Wedding Planning Changed My Financial Life, Part 1

People often describe the wedding planning process in horrific terms, saying things like "if you can survive the planning together, you can survive anything," and "I nearly divorced him/her before it even began." For me, the idea of 18 months of hellish preparation for a one-day event just isn't going to work.  In fact, I'm excited about the planning process. I'm excited to find a synagogue where we want to get married and become active members of a progressive Jewish community.  I'm excited for pre-marital counseling.  I'm excited to write our own vows.  I'm excited to throw a large party for our friends and family that welcomes everyone into our joint life.  And I'm excited to finally talk more openly about our joint financial future and further develop shared goals and values.

Yes, finances. I am a giant personal finance nerd, and I can largely credit wedding planning with making that happen. It seems I'm not alone. According to a recent survey over at my favorite personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly, wedding planning is one of the foremost reasons people credit for their financial maturity/turnaround.  That certainly rings true, based on my own experiences, and it's not because marriage suddenly makes us any more mature. Instead, it's because you're staring down a huge number for the first time, be it a $5,000, $15,000 or $50,000 wedding expense, and you freak the heck out.  And if, instead of sticking your head in the sand and charging everything on your credit card in pursuit of your magical happy perfect unicorn day, you sit down and have some hard honest conversations, you can lay down a joint framework of saving and financial decision making that will serve you throughout your marriage.

Since I'm hoping this blog will be as much marriage planning as wedding planning, I thought that budget articles could start out with why budgeting is awesome, instead of giving you some trite advice about choosing the three most important items in your budget and prioritizing those.  Any wedding planning website can tell you to cut the guestlist or to ruthlessly comparison shop on google.  But what I'm more interested in is how the back-and-forth of budget discussions can be an excellent chance to plan for a healthy financial and non-financial life together.

In part 2, I'm going to share my not-so-remarkable-and-maybe-relate-able story of financial planning turnaround via wedding planning.  If you're anything like me and the 15% of people who responded to Get Rich Slowly that weddings/engagements/pregnancy helped them finally get their financial act together, then maybe you can also start to see weddings as a financial opportunity and not just a giant financial pain in the bum.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Party over Pretty

I can tell you right now that my wedding won't look like a perfect blogland gorgeous creation.  I don't look like a perfect blogland gorgeous creation, and we roll more with the goofy-fantastic-fun side of things than with the elegantly coordinated weddings that are pretty enough to get featured on blogs.  But you know what I will have?  A massive freaking celebration of crazy joy and imperfectly messy love - from and among and between friends, family, J and myself.

Sometimes I start to resent all the wedding blog photos of professionally designed details and DIY genius on display, since I have neither the budget for an event designer nor the time/patience for DIY splendor. And that's why I love this messy table shot where the photographer (and good friend of the bride) is pretending to be passed out, from the incredibly talented Orange County/Los Angeles based Erin Hearts Court.

Just to be clear, Erin Hearts Court captured a plethora of magazine-worthy beautiful images throughout the day, including numerous charming, sweet, envy-worthy details and design touches. (Check out the whole wedding here.)  I love these photos.  But even more, I love the story the photos tell.  The day started out with a grey morning on a beach in Maine and progressed into thoroughly stormy weather, forcing the wedding inside and changing the aesthetic background from beach-side to indoors.   

Despite the last minute venue scramble, it didn't matter one whit in affecting the joy of the day.  There was still love and tears and beauty and a ton of gorgeous photos (some from the day after, when the weather cleared up). But I love the end-of-the-party shot most - it's just a shot of the wedding aftermath, with Erin goofing around pretending to be passed out... but that's what makes it great.  It's exactly what I'm really trying to achieve with my wedding - a big ol' raucous celebration of joy with my friends goofing around, doing silly poses for the camera because they're having tons of fun, and no one caring about the messy table or the fact that we served Bud Light (well, we might not serve Bud Light, but insert your own affordable beer name here).

This friends-taking-silly-staged-photo stands in stark contrast to a lot of staged wedding photography running around the wedding blogs lately, creating fake weddings and engagement sessions in order to create visually perfect wedding images for marketing and for photographic practice purposes.  Now, I appreciate pretty as much as the next girl, and I gasped like everyone else at the amazing photos, proving that they certainly serve their purpose as stunning sales/marketing pieces for the talented participating photographers, designers, graphic designers, and other vendors. But, instead of making me sigh with the heartfelt love of a wedding, they make me wish I looked like a model and had a bazillion dollars for wedding design and high-end photographers.

So, when these staged shoots creep into my google reader on blogs I turn to for inspiration about my own real-person wedding, I feel like it makes holding onto the reasons and rationale for our wedding a little more difficult.  It turns weddings (or the idea of weddings) into a photoshoot opportunity and away from being an event focused on love and joy.  I stopped reading women's magazines years ago when I realized that I came away from the hour feeling worse about myself because I do not and cannot look like photoshopped models (regardless of whichever facecream or new It bag the magazine wants me to buy) and I feel like I need to do the same thing here in wedding land.  Now, I want beautiful photography.  I want an artist to help capture the small moments of imperfect beauty that make weddings and life and love worthwhile.  I want a photographer who sees that spark of human recognition in our joy and not just another bouquet shot.  And so, I need to look away from the perfectly beautiful wedding staging and embrace the perfectly imperfect of the everyday life and joy that J and I have crafted.

But the Erin Hearts Court photo, taken at a real wedding where they ignored the rain and had fun anyhow, with silly fun posing like I often do with friends.... that's the sort of staging I can handle.  It's the sort of staging that doesn't feel the least bit aspirational.  In fact, this is precisely what I am aspiring to - rained out, perfectly decorated wedding or not.  And I would feel lucky to have a photographer as talented as Erin Hearts Court to capture both the beautiful and the beautifully honest moments at our upcoming wedding.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thoughts on this Next Year

I'm taking the day off from blogging today for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  It's a day of fasting, prayer, and contemplation about the past year and what we want/who we want to be in this year to come.  This past year was not without its challenges (which year isn't?) but I feel so blessed in our family, in our friendships, and in the partnership that J and I have with each other.  I'm looking forward to strengthening our bonds to each other and to the new families we're each joining as we work through this process of marriage together.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fingers Crossed for Wedding Contest Opportunities

I've never won a contest.  I've never even won anything for a lotto scratcher ticket.  But ohmyfreakingoodness I want to win something this week over at the Broke-Ass Bride's Wedding In a Week Giveaway Extravaganza. Dana put together an amazing array of opportunities to win over $11,000 in wedding-related prizes, with giveaways happening once, twice and up to three times a day during from September 28 - October 5.  

J and I are definitely entering for any Next Exit Photography packages, Hazelnut Photography packages, custom map design from Pantomime Papers, EcoUsable water bottles, and skincare options.  Okay, the skincare is for me, but the rest would be more than awesome for our wedding.  I have a permanent photography crush on Next Exit, I love all the recent Hazelnut photography shoots I've seen (Smog Shoppe, The Hotel Figueroa, ahhhh), I don't need favors but environmental policy is my career and I would love a set of EcoUsable water bottles for gifts or favors (I regularly use one myself and love it), and I've been obsessed with maps for as long as I can remember.  In fact, our first joint art purchase was a stylized map of Los Angeles' neighborhoods from Ork Posters, so I would lovelovelove a personal map design from Pantomime Papers for our wedding weekend festivities. 

I'm hoping the luck from my girl Britt over at the Bowie Bride is catching, and we can win ourselves some free photography too.  She and her fiancee are on a hot winning streak, having just won an incredible photo package from Nicole Polk, save the date postcards from the Digital Room, and a whole suite of bridal accessories compiled by Southern Weddings.  She proves that winning is very possible, and I will be following her example and entering every contest opportunity we find that fits our needs.

My fingers are crossed.  See you over at the Broke-Ass Bride this week!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Seasonal Fruit Centerpieces

Much like I'm not tied to the idea of cake, I'm not tied to the idea of centerpiece flowers either.  In fact, the only reason I'm tied to the idea of centerpieces at all is because I think the tables will feel bare, and therefore uninviting, if we don't have something fun on them - be it candles, a handcrafted centerpiece, flowers, or whatever else.  But as much as I love flowers for their intrinsic beauty, they feel too wasteful (hundreds of cut flowers that will just wilt in a few days without anyone to properly love them), too expensive (in the food vs flower budget breakdown, food wins), and too time consuming and stressful (DIY might be okay, if I found local organic flowers, but the idea of effectively storing and transporting all the arrangements makes me queasy with stress already).

Since I know I want centerpieces, I'm trying to think through simple, sustainable, can't-mess-them-up centerpiece ideas that my friends and I can throw together that morning, on site, for a bit of flair and not much fuss. (I'd rather spend time with my girls, not stressing about decor, thank you very much.)

Since I'm going apple picking this weekend, I've got apples on the brain (and the associated pie recipes, crumble recipes, and baked apple recipes).  And since I've also got weddings on the brain, somehow apples and weddings crossed paths and I got to thinking about using seasonal produce as an inexpensive, colorful centerpiece idea.  Google then provided me with the images below (seems other people have also thought about the produce-as-centerpiece idea.)  Overall, I think it's a fun concept that plays with shape and color, therefore lending itself really well to either a more rustic wedding or a modern loft-type wedding, depending on presentation. And it's fast, affordable, simple, and lasts for a week (although yes, it's somewhat wasteful on the food side.  sigh.)

A more rustic or outdoorsy wedding in the fall might be best served by something like the photo below (find very easy how-to instructions here.)  And it lends itself very well to hungry guest snacking (during or post-party, I don't really care).

And from Real Simple, enough apple centerpiece ideas to fit any party style, cost, convenience, and eat-it-up considerations:

Although the apples this weekend are going straight into my tummy via cider, pie, and other forms of deliciousness.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cake Alternatives: Popsicles

It's going to be hot hot hot this week in Los Angeles.  Which got me thinking about cool refreshing desserts.  Which got me thinking that wedding guests might really love something besides cake after all that dance floor rocking out on a hot summer afternoon or evening.  (I'm really not tied to the wedding cake idea.) So how about some all-natural, local, farmers-market sourced, seasonal popsicles instead?

photo by Renee Anjanette at Tulino Design Group

Popshop is the brainchild of Emily Zaiden, a Los Angeles local who's always loved playing with frozen dessert flavors.  After overwhelmingly positive response to her mojito and lemon ginger flavors from friends at a 2008 birthday party,  she started experimenting with ethnic-infused palattes, using only fresh, farmer's market ingredients to make her gourmet, vegan, preservative-free popsicles. (Read the full LAist profile on her here.)

She has a booth each week at the Studio City Farmer's Market on Sundays (still my favorite farmer's market around town.  I need to find something comparably great in my neighborhood) and can also arrange for special order deliveries ($48 for 24 pops, often including delivery).

I'm thinking an avocado vanilla, nectarine almond, or mango lime popsicle sounds divine for a hot afternoon wedding. Or for the late night post-alcohol, mid-dance recovery break. Or for this Sunday afternoon, when it's 90 degrees out and I just want something delicious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Different Sort of Wedding Planning Checklist

As I've mentioned, I was not one of those girls who sat around with Barbie and Ken dreaming about weddings.  So when the "I'm getting married" realization finally hit, I remember feeling terrified more than excited, because where the freaking frick do you even start (especially if tulle has never really been your thing)?

All I have to say is, the Knot's wedding planning checklists did not help with my terror.

So once we got officially engaged, I decided it would be cruel and counterproductive to send J a similar list.  I also decided that the standard "oh my goodness we're engaged what's our budget who do you want to invite what are your three most important must-haves" conversation would be equally unproductive as a starting point.  Because to me, there were bigger questions than flowers and venues.  Questions that get at the heart of why we want a wedding, and how we want our wedding to feel.  And once we answer that, I feel like the rest of it will all fall into place. 

Instead, I wrote a new wedding planning "checklist".  And we're beginning to savor its questions slowly, over a glass of wine at dinner, as we work through what's really important to us on this journey. 

 Our Wedding Planning Questions
  • Why have a wedding?  Why not elope instead?  Why not have a small intimate party with family instead?
  • What's the best wedding you ever went to and why did you think so?  What do you remember liking best?  What do you think gave you that "feeling"?  How would you describe it?
  • How much would you feel comfortable spending on our wedding?  How much would you feel comfortable contributing jointly? 
  • What are the benefits and disadvantages of paying for all (or most) of the wedding on our own, without parental assistance?  What do you envision is a fair breakdown for parental assistance, if we decide we'd like it?
  • How much would you feel comfortable asking our parents for (each, separately, as a percentage of total?) and for what items (general budget; specific assistance with dress, DJ, rehearsal, etc; or another format)
  • Do you have a ballpark figure for the total amount in your mind (including rings, ketubah, party rental, venue, catering, clothes, honeymoon, rehearsal)? 
  • How does a wedding relate in importance to paying for a house/kids/car/school/other big-life expenses?
  • How many guests do you envision sharing our day?  Do you think your must-invite obligation list would be much larger than half of that? 
  • How do you feel about a smallish wedding (50-80)?  A really large wedding (200+)?  A medium-sized wedding (100-150?)  What are the advantages of any of these?
  • How do you envision the night before our wedding?  The day of?  Are there elements you're really looking forward to?  Things you figure just happen/you have to do?  What about your ideal version of a magical day - how would it go?
  • Which parts of wedding planning are you looking forward to?  Are there any parts you're dreading?
  • What are your ideas for making planning manageable - in the context of our relationship and everyday life, in terms of time invested, in terms of families?  What challenges do you see and what strategies can we use? 
 For the moment, we're actually enjoying this wedding planning thing (if approached in manageable one-hour chunks during which we actually listen to each other.) The Knot can come later (or not. whatever.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Local Wedding Vendors I Like: Encore Bridal

You know how sometimes you go to a store and want to tell all your friends just how awesome it is and how great the staff is so they'll go and shop there too?  That's how I feel about Encore Bridal,* the great little shop/online store where I found this beauty at nearly half-off the standard Watters prices. And the great little shop/online store where Julie (the owner) and Dani (her staff) went completely out of their way to answer questions about the dress with multiple emails and phone calls, to keep the shop open for me after hours to try on the dress in person, and to just provide an all-around feel-good experience.  Even if the dress ultimately isn't the one (or a one, since I'm not so sure I believe in the yesyesyes moment for me and dresses) I left the store feeling warm-and-happy about the entire shopping experience, and wishing I could buy something to support this local vendor, because they were just that friendly and awesome.  For example, when I first talked with Julie on the phone to try and schedule a visit, she couldn't make Saturday because - get this - she was having one of her brides over for champagne to celebrate the new dress, because they'd become friends over the course of the dress search.   That's the kind of bridal shop and entrepreneur I feel good about supporting.

Now, I've mentioned before that I'm not really a couture girl, but that's primarily because designer dresses are way out of my budget, so it wasn't even worth considering.  However, it turns out that Encore has a few dresses that fit my style and can be made to fit my budget (let's call it sub-$1000 for dress and alterations, although yeah, I'd prefer to pay less.)  And because they carry high-quality designer options, reselling the dress after the wedding would be a very viable option. 

Ristarose Angie for $699

Encore Bridal certainly has several lower-cost gems, but they also have a salon-full of beautiful couture dresses for brides with a higher budget than mine.

Why yes, I did just fall in love with this Avina Valenta. And no I still don't have $1650.  But someone probably does and would appreciate the significant $1400 savings at Encore over retail prices. And someone local would especially appreciate the chance to try on any of these dresses at one of Encore's bi-monthly open-shop salons in Manhattan Beach (online prices with in-person service?  Yes please.)

I had the briefest hope last week that my wedding dress search was over before it had barely begun.  And although I fell in love with the Watters dress I mentioned in this post and it's definitely the right style for my body type, it was heavier than I had anticipated (oof - 7 pounds), was too short for heels (I'm pretty tall), and would need significant alterations to fit my smaller-than-the-dress frame. But oh, the dresses. And oh, Encore Bridal.  Julie and Dani were so helpful and their dresses so beautiful that Encore will maintain a permanent bookmark in my future dress search.  

*This is not a sponsored post.  I've been around a month here in blogland, so sponsorship isn't really a question at this point.  I just really had a great experience and want to support local vendors who help make the wedding experience somewhat less painful and sometimes even fun.

Three Years Ago Today

9/22/06 email to my best friend in NYC:
So I went on this date last night and I still can't get the butterflies out of my stomach and I'm still smiling like a moron.  He's awsome, and we had an amazing time.  We met at Canter's, the jewish late-night hipster deli I took you to, but ended up at Eata Pita instead, which I thought you would appreciate.   Then, after the dinner he invited me along to a jazz show.  We're there, and one of his aquaintences was essentially shocked that we were on a first date - "I never would have known.  You seem like you're together."  And we both kinda felt the same way too. 
And then, we held hands through the show.  And it was absolutely wow hands holding.  And he's cute.  And he's really tall.  And really funny smart.  And a progressive Texas Jew (his grandfather is a republican Jewish bigwig who regularly lunches with George Sr.  So weird.)  And outgoing/energetic.  And he likes tall women who can hold their own.  And he really seems to like me.  (He may have half-jokingly invited himself to Italy on our upcoming trip. Ha.)
I'd forgotten what it could feel like when someone actually likes you as opposed to trying to force and manipulate something to happen with someone who you think you should like a bit more than you do. 
Oh goodness, I'm smitten.  I'm all about robbing this particular cradle.  I must go compose myself now and be productive.  I must also remind myself to enjoy the warm fuzzy feelings but not to expect anything more than that.  Let's just see where this goes.  
Happy Anniversary, J.  Three years ago we had the best first date of my life, and I feel like the fun hasn't ended since then.  I couldn't be happier that I decided to rob this particular cradle.  And I couldn't be happier that I get to spend the rest of my life with you.


I met up with another recently engaged girlfriend this weekend to discuss weddingy girly things together, instead of irritating our fiances and unenegaged girlfriends with all things floral and dress related.  Whereas we are getting married in Spring of 2011, they are getting married in March 2010, giving them about six full months to plan a large-scale elaborate event.  Our girly afternoon was an attempt to quell the panic of her ever-growing to-do list from her leap into brideland.  We had two targets: dress ideas and floral ideas, before she meets with vendors and boutiques in the next few weeks.

So I stopped by the store to pick up two bridal mags, intending to rip up the pages as we gathered ideas.  My register total, for two bridal mags and a pack of gum?  $22.50

Okay, so one was Real Simple Weddings (which turned out to be $13ish) but still. Even with magazines we can't get away from the "wedding" price premium?  Also, has anyone else noticed a ridiculous number of engagement ring ads in wedding magazines?  I mean, I know pre-engaged girls browse wedding stuff (guilty as charged) but I always skulked around the internet (free, and the browser window shuts quickly to leave my news reading in plain sight).  If J had found any wedding mags around the house before we got married, it would have been a very awkward conversation. But, from the number of engagement ring ads in the five mags we browsed yesterday, there is apparently a large readership of pre-engaged women.  I was more than a little surprised.

Also, as a side note, I highly recommend having a girlfriend with a nearly no-limit wedding budget and the same laid-back approach to style and foofery as you.  I finally had a use for my knowledge of out-of-my-budget dresses, florists and photographers.  I get to see my fantasy wedding ideas come to life elsewhere, bringing joy to another couple, instead of stuck in my inspiration file for possible DIY project adaptation.  It also helps if she gets genuinely excited about your creative mason jar centerpiece and barbecue catering ideas too, because budgets aside. that's just how the two of you roll.  

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sneak Peek: Dress Shopping

I should know better.  I've fallen in love with a dress before we even have a venue.  Not only is the cart coming before the horse, but every sensible bone in my body says NO!  To quote the wise words East Side Bride, who has walked this road before me:
"Here is a big piece of advice for everyone: don't buy your dress until you book the venue. I don't care how on sale it is. Or how much you think you know what you want. Vegas country club doesn't work in the forest. Feathery flapper will look ridiculous in a chapel. I would love to see you wear a ball gown to city hall, though. (Vintage suit for a city hall wedding? Yawn.)"
Since she ended up a guilty two-dress bride, I should probably trust her on this one.  But I'm not.  Instead, I'm willfully singling la-la-la with my fingers in my ears because this weekend I'm going to try on this modern, white, non-poofy dress with an interesting silhouette and flattering cut. Even though I'm not tied to the white wedding dress idea, this is definitely a white dress I can get behind and a price I can find a way to afford. And because it's a designer sample, there's only one, so it's a use-it-or-lose-it situation.

Watters Style 5034b

Part of me really hopes I don't like it on, just so I can put the silliness aside.  I've been doubting myself ever since I called the store to set an appointment.  What happened to my desire to support independent designers?  To wear a re-wearable or pre-loved dress?  To eschew the strapless phenomenon?  To wear something fun and not just weddingy?  To wear something that doesn't need a bustle?

What happened is I saw a designer dress that made me gasp out loud at a price I can manage without giving myself an aneyurism. I can be weddingy but I can also be me in this dress, and that seems to be a hard line to walk here in brideland. 

Oh, and for all those of you worried about whether J sees a photo of the dress or not, we've already discussed it and he's already seen the photos.  I promised not to show him any photos of me in the dress, all dolled up, but besides that, whatever.  It's a dress, not a make-or-break-moment-on-which-the-rest-of-our-marriage-hinges.  Sheesh. 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Date Night: Grand Performances

Sniff.  Summertime is coming to an end, and with it comes the end of all the incredible free concert opportunities in the Los Angeles area. This Sunday night is the season closer for our favorite free performance series: Grand Performances. Haven't heard of it?  Here's a rundown of the reasons you should go (or bookmark it for next year):

  • Striking urban setting in Downtown LA's California Plaza Water Court?  Check
  • BYOB and picnic blanket?  Check
  • Public transit accessible via Pershing Square?  Check
  • A public concert series that strives to reflect the various cultures of this city without resorting to "world music" and actually achieves its goal?  Check
  • A showcase for top international bands, dancing and performers?  Check
  • Spontaneous dancing and general revelry in the amphitheater area? Check
  • FREE?  Check

So this is where I'll be with J on Sunday night at 7:00pm for the Viva Mexico Concert, featuring Kinky and Omar Torres.  Grand Performances introduced me to to Kinky's Mexican electronica two years ago during a stifling heat-wave and the evening was a complete and utter blast.  I've never heard of Omar Torres, but the crowd energy is sure to carry the night anyhow. (Because it always does.) 

To any Angelino brides or grooms getting married during the summertime who need "fun activities" for your guests, I'd highly recommend pointing them in the direction of Grand Performances (there's generally a mix of Friday, Saturday and Sunday concerts.) And for the adventurous, casual, budget-minded bride and groom, Grand Preformances are definitely an excellent option for a unique reherasal dinner/welcome picnic activity.  Or heck, it might be a great party spot after a Friday afternoon courthouse wedding.  The possibilities for fun are endless.  Now go forth, and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A DIY Bouquet for an Upcoming Vegas Elopement

My girlfriend is running off to Vegas this month to get married (shhh - it's a secret!).  J and I are the only ones who know (besides her lucky long-time partner, of course) and we'll be the only ones in attendance.  She's excited about the fun of it all and could care less about veils and dresses and anything weddingy. I figured as her single shout-out to bridehood, she could at least have a bouquet, so I bravely offered to make one and use the floral tape I have lying around my craft box.

Except, I've never made a bouquet.  The floral tape only indicates a fortunate Craigslist run-in and the desire to learn how to make a bouquet.

So I was especially thrilled to see instructions for making this beauty over at 100 Layer Wedding.
Wish me luck, and I'll let you know how it goes in an upcoming post!

New York Fashion Week Style Musings

All I can say is, this is how wedding dress pick-ups should look

Now, I'm not a ballgown girl at all - if the words "princess" or "cupcake" can be used to describe a dress, it's simply not my style, which trends more towards clean, modern, and wearable-for-dancing.  But Christian Siriano's Spring 2010 collection is making me fall momentarily in love with the ballgown, particularly because I harbor secret dreams of wearing a colored wedding dress.

Of course, trying to wear any these dresses in public would probably induce a self-conscious panic attack.  But the colorful glory would be completely worth it, since I absolutely love bold, wearable art-dresses.  But, however much I love rich color tones and a dramatic use of fabric and shape, you're more liable to find me actually wearing something like this (or more precisely, the H&M knockoff version of this):

In my defense, it's a lovely coat.  Gorgeous and perfect even, except for the consistent dry-cleaning likely required by such snowy-white loveliness.  And I spend far too much time at a button-down office job and far too little at sophisticated events to bother thinking about my long-dress fashion sensibilities.  So, although stylish Michelle-Obama/D.C.-approved Jason Wu has that classic-but-fun style I like on an everyday basis, I'm still trying to decide if I wouldn't like a bit more rockstar in my wedding dress.  Or if white, simple, sleek and modern feels just a bit more me and a lot less panic-attack inducing.  So I'm working on feeling out my response to these wedding dress style questions as I peruse the new Spring collections, vaguely wishing I had about $10,000 to blow on couture playthings.

And then I smile, because if I had $10,000 to blow, I'd clearly be running off on an international adventure in my jeans and flip flops, leaving the makeup bag behind because it wouldn't fit in my backpack.  Because that's how I really roll.  So I may need some flip flops at the wedding, just to remind me again of who I really am under all that fun bridal costuming.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Wedding Planning is Like Grocery Shopping

We were each curled up with our respective books this past weekend - he with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and me with Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.  I made it to page 6 before I had to interrupt J in amazement.
"Um, did you know that someone has bred rice grains so that they're both heart-shaped and crush underfoot (so they can be safely thrown at weddings and not harm birds' digestive tracts)?  This is insane.  I can't believe people make and buy this stuff!!!"  
J gave me a long hard look.  He obviously agrees that genetically-engineered wedding rice is silly, but he pointed out that if someone's buying it, then presumably they want it and think it adds a special touch to their wedding. He was then wise in pointing out that there's a fine line between disgust with the WIC for its insidious overwhelming pressure on brides and with looking down on the brides themselves who are making active decisions to buy details I may think are silly.  In other  words - their wedding, their choices, no judgment.

He's right, of course.  But the issue is more that I feel many brides don't have a real choice.  They get engaged and jump into planning a wedding that's only a year away, complete with extreme emotional excitement, family pressure, societal expectations and logistical panic attacks being thrust on them all at once.  Most aren't event planners, so they turn to resources that provide information on wedding checklists for "the way things are done." So no, while we're all certainly free to make choices about our own weddings, many of us are pushed immediately into a world where the important decisions are all about the look and stuff associated with the big day - the dress, the flowers, the favors, the candy buffet, and yes, heart-shaped grains of rice.

After letting me rant on a bit about free will and marketing, J turned to me and said,
"It seems to me that wedding planning is a bit like going to the supermarket without a list. If you haven't planned and thought about what you really want from the market beforehand, you'll end up with a basket full of junk food or produce that will go bad before you figure out what to do with it.  The sensible thing for your budget (and waistline) would be to plan your meals ahead of time and stick with your shopping list when you're at the market (making sure to include an occasional a bottle of wine and ice cream, of course).  With wedding planning, if you haven't thought about the marriage or what you want from your wedding day before jumping into venue/catering/decor/guest list battles, you're liable to end up with heart-shaped rice, staring at your credit card bill three months after the party, wondering what on earth happened."
And yes.  That's it exactly.  (Although I'd add that an immediate post-engagement jump into wedding planning is more like shopping without a list, when you're ravenously hungry at 7pm and just want to get home already, and then realizing you've been locked inside Costco for the next nine months. )

Oh how I love my wise partner.  And oh how happy I am that we have a long engagement to do some serious thinking about our own wedding list. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fun: Cupcakes

I feel like most people who spend time on the internet have discovered the joy of Cake Wrecks (and if not, please go check it out NOW.)  However, since cupcakes aren't the same thing at all (they're much more frostingy, for starters) they certainly deserve websites worth and respectful of their own unique deliciousness and style.

Enter Cupcakestakethecake.

Photo from My Artisan Cake Company's Flickr, via Cupcakes Take the Cake

The site is primarily an homage to all-things-cupcake, and not a blog-of-horrors a-la-cakewrecks.  This homage includes an extensive list of recipes (use the search box) and a very handy list of cupcake shops/vendors.  There's a heavy NYC-focus, with a ton of other U.S. and international cities also thrown in, including Los Angeles.  (And yes, it does warm my subversive feminist heart that Rachel Kramer Bussel co-runs a site devoted to cupcakes and their deliciousness.)

To all those brides who are wondering if cupcakes are passe at weddings, I can emphatically say NO. They are delicious, come in multiple flavors and designs for picky guests (and ahem, brides who can't decide amongst various cake choices), and require no cake-cutting fees or extra rentals of utensils or plates.  (Since when did tasty cost-saving wedding dessert options become a "played out" trend?  Because if you don't want your cupcake, I'd be happy to take it off your hands...) 

Also, happy sea creatures made out of non-fondant frosting.  Yes please.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Inconvenient Tumor

I'm on my lunchbreak, trying to hold it together, because I stumbled across this LAist post, which outlines every reason I want to get married to J and everything that love really is.  Neither of us are strangers to how illness impacts a family and marriage, which is one of the reasons I trust him to know the full meaning of "in sickness and health" and to know how to consistently find love and strength together, regardless of what life throws at us. Christine and Bryan's story confirms everything about the underpinnings of love, commitment, and life as a partnership.

Christine and Bryan both got laid off when the economy tumbled.  Almost immediately afterwards, Bryan found out he had a brain tumor, just three months before their wedding.  Their story about fighting the tumor and getting married is life-affirming and heart-breaking and everything in between.  Here's just a snippet of Christine's own words from photographer Anna Kuperberg's blog:
"Right before our wedding, people would ask Bryan and me the same type of question over and over. "Are you nervous?" "Are you scared?" "Are you freaked out about getting married?"

These questions surprised us, because given the fact that Bryan and I had faced one of the toughest challenges a couple can go through – namely, Bryan's diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor – we were not nervous. We were not scared. We were not freaked out. On the contrary, we couldn't wait. We knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were brought together nearly three years ago as soulmates who would be faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. We couldn't wait, after six weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy, to celebrate together and finally become husband and wife. Because the truth of the matter is, Bryan and I were already married. Not in the legal sense, but in a spiritual, emotional and intellectual sense. We felt, in the best way possible, as though we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary rather than the beginning of our lives together. Simply put, a couple doesn't go through something as devastating as a brain tumor diagnosis (not to mention treatment) and come out of it nervous to get married. Instead, they come out of it with a foundation of marriage more solid than a rock. In Bryan's and my case, there wasn't a sentence we couldn't finish for each other, a feeling or look we couldn't immediately recognize, or a silence that didn't speak volumes."
Please go read more in their LAist profile today, or at Anna Kuperberg's blog, or at Chistine Bishop's own website about the entire experience and journey, An Inconvenient Tumor.

The Day After You Get Engaged

One unexpected benefit of our drawn-out proposal process was how it prepared us for the barrage of questions that followed our official engagement announcement.  It’s as if most people lose their ability to think logically when they hear the word “engagement” or see the sparkle of a new ring and they begin asking questions and saying things such as,
“So when’s the big day?”
“Where are you planning on getting married?”
“Don’t go and become a bridezilla now.”
“Don’t put a Cuisinart on your registry – that’s my present to you.”
Um, two days after the proposal most of us are simultaneously floating in joy while trying to conquer a huge to-call list for the announcement.  We probably haven’t given much thought to wedding dates or details (do you know how long the venue search takes in Los Angeles?) and many of us already have extensive kitchen utensils, or may not even want a registry in the end. 

Oy.  On the plus side, J and I were prepared to deal with the insanity.  We’d already decided that we want a longer engagement; we just moved in and want time to enjoy being together/learning how to live together before adding the stress and compromise of wedding planning. We also want more time to save for the wedding, so we’re thinking Spring 2011 is an affordable timeframe.  Apparently, once you tell people about a far-off date they aren’t interested in the details anymore (and any wedding-eyed girlfriends or coworkers are left without conversational gambits that revolve around my being a bride.  Thank goodness.)  With our long timeframe, other comments about how everything books up quickly and you’d better get cracking on making reservations don’t really hold much water.  Also, it sounds positively un-“bridezilla”-like to wait and responsibly save for a wedding, so these comments fall flat (or are met with angry if-looks-could-kill daggers).  

And as for the Cuisinart comment, as much as my internal aspiring gourmet loves kitchen gadgetry (if you’ve ever tried to make falafel by mashing chickpeas in a blender, you too would be thrilled about the offer of a Cuisinart) I was at least ready to stutter out (and mean it) some sort of thank-you-that’s-so-thoughtful-but-your-presence-will-be-present-enough response. 

So my best piece of advice so far is to talk with your partner before the excited phone calls and decide how you’re going to respond to silliness.  Also, please remember to giggle about all these conversations together at the end of each day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beach Access for All

One of the (many) reasons we want to get married in Los Angeles is to share aspects of the city we love with the people that we love.  Unsurprisingly, one of those aspects is the beach.  However, because of cost questions and because we'll have wedding guests with limited physical mobility, I just figured a beach wedding was out of the question.

While cost may still put a damper on any barefoot-in-the-sand wedding scenarios, this past weekend I discovered that Los Angeles has a wealth of wheelchair-accessible beach resources. Such as the beach wheelchair. 

That's right - a beach wheelchair.  

Beach wheelchairs come with large, inflated tires instead of standard wheels and are available for FREE at a number of Los Angeles beaches, as we discovered at Topanga State Beach this past weekend.  Someone besides the rider will need to push, and it's certainly easiest on wet sand, but wow.  It's an incredible resource that allows loved ones to not only observe beach-fun from a restaurant patio or viewpoint, but to actually get down to the water, or your volleyball game, or just sit in the sun listening to the waves. 

I haven't seen many resources that deal with planning for guests with limited physical mobility at weddings, beyond ensuring the venue is wheelchair accessible. But I'm looking for ways to make the entire weekend wheelchair-accessible, and these beach wheelchairs are an excellent start for inclusive activity options everyone can enjoy.  Find out more about which beaches have free beach wheelchairs here at the California Coastal Conservancy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Ring

I was clear upfront with my firm rules for any engagement ring I would wear.  So when he asked for guidance on the design, I carefully searched for unique options that fit both our requirements.  And yet, it still never felt right.  I’d never wanted an engagement ring, and the shopping process just felt odd and uncomfortable.  The final straw came when I went into a shop to a) look into an engagement ring for him and b) try on a few non-solitaire rings for myself, to see how they looked.  Amongst all the pretty, I found a three-stone, princess cut, bezel-set, modern ring that I could envision with our own non-mined gems.  I fell a little bit in love and asked about the price. 


As I tried to recover somewhat from my shock (but that’s a new car!  Or a year of grad school at UCLA!  Or a year’s worth of travel in South America!), I clarified that I only was interested in the setting, not the stones.  



Somewhere along the way, we’ve all clearly lost our marbles if we think it’s remotely appropriate to pay $2,500 for a small hunk of metal.  I felt dirty and had to keep myself from running out of the store, screaming and waving my hands in horror.  At that moment, I was DONE with ring shopping and wanted no further part in the beast that is modern American weddings.

I went to visit my mother that afternoon, ill with disgust about my first full-fledged WIC encounter, full of righteous indignation, convinced I could no longer stomach ring shopping, even if it was important to J. At which point, my mother brought out an old heirloom ring she had been planning to give me on my future 30th birthday, a ring I’ve always loved, and asked if it would work for us instead.  It was yellow gold, with a yellow topaz center and diamonds surrounding the topaz.  It was beautiful, not my “style” at all, and perfect all the same, particularly because she wanted us to adapt it as we wanted so that we would use and love the ring she no longer wore.  The idea of a ring that connected me to my past and also to our present values was the first thing about selecting a ring that finally just felt right.

So we found an amazing jeweler who specializes in cutting synthetic gems* who J worked with on a synthetic sapphire center stone.  He then worked with a local jeweler to change out the yellow gold for a re-designed white gold band.  And the resulting ring is more beautiful, less practical, more blingy, and yet more meaningful than I ever could have imagined.    

I’m still getting used to wearing it.  On the surface, it seems so traditionally flashy and sparkly, even if we know that it meets all our cost and environmental requirements.  I’m a simple-over-sparkle girl, and I’m not entirely comfortable with the assumptions about status, cost, or traditional engagements that get imputed with this ring.  And I’m certainly not comfortable when people grab my hand to see it and exclaim over the engagement ring (really – um, we’re excited over the engagement, not the ring, right?).  It’s also not a ring I would feel comfortable wearing on a trip through South America, or even to South Los Angeles, despite the fact that its street value falls far short of what the sparkle implies.  I sometimes have to sit back and remind myself that it has every element of the bad-ass independent me-ness that I was looking for in a ring, others’ assumptions be darned.  Instead of defending my ring to outsiders, as many indie-ring brides before me have had to do, I find myself immediately indie-fying the ring by describing the benefits of synthetic sapphires, trying to place myself comfortably back on the environmentalist feminist side of the ring debate.

But I’m slowing getting used to ignoring the outside voices and just loving everything about the ring.  Because it’s ours, I love it, and I couldn’t have dreamt of anything more perfect for us.

*please ignore his early-2000s website.  Michael E is a stonecutting genius (synthetic and standard gems) who values intrinsic beauty over judging us for wanting not-a-diamond.  And we faced a LOT of judgment along the way.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Boy Proposes to Girl: The Best Second First Date Ever

Recently, I was commiserating with a girlfriend as we wondered just how long the ring can sit in our boyfriends’ dressers before they finally ask the question (in her case: nine months; in my case: significantly less, but I’m impatient.)  Despite actively discussing marriage and weddings within our respective partnerships and having firm life-commitments, we both were still waiting to “officially” get on the same page.

J and I finally got on the same page a few weeks ago.  But for several months after I proposed to him, I was still waiting for his egalitarian counter-proposal.  I kept confirming weekend plans before making any arrangements for us - just in case he possibly had engagement plans - wondering “is is going to happen this week?"  When I looked at a summer of fully booked weekends, I finally emotionally let go, figured it wasn’t coming any time soon, and continued researching for our agreed-upon Spring 2011 wedding. 

Of course, that’s about when he finally asked.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I was in super-productive mode at work, when I realized J was in my office, asking me to leave early.  Now, I work in Santa Monica and he works in Burbank, so there was no excuse for him being at my office, except for a big occasion... most probably THAT occasion.  In the midst of my surprise and protestations that I had to finish work, he let me know that he had permission from my bosses for me to leave early (um, CLEARLY that occasion). Instead of pestering him with whowhatwhenwherewhy, I decided I wanted to be fully present in the experience and enjoy the evening, however it played out.

He first drove me up the coast to Topanga Canyon, where he had dinner reservations at Inn of the Seventh Ray, which is possibly the most romantic restaurant in all of Los Angeles – tucked away in a canyon just outside the main city, built over a creek, into the hillside, surrounded by trees and draped with white fabric and twinkle lights throughout.

The organic sustainable deliciousness doesn’t hurt either.  Le sigh.  We walked around to explore the grounds, lost in romantic hand holding thoughts, but no, he never dropped to one knee.  I kept checking my food for a ring, but nada. I was confused, until he announced that we were ready to leave for our next stop in the evening's adventure.  So he drove me into the Valley (odd, I thought - what adventure stop could possibly be in the Valley?  He used to live there, so maybe he had a hidden gem up his sleeve?) and then he drove us out of the Valley again (??!!) via Laurel Canyon and down Fairfax Blvd until he parked in front of...


Canter’s delicatessen.  That’s right, the famous, ever-so-not-romantic 24-hour Jewish Deli.  Also known as the place where we first met in person three years ago, after electronically "meeting" online the week before.  On our first date, we met in front of Canter's and (wisely) decided to eat down the block at a more first-date appropriate Mediterranean garden restaurant (which sadly, went out of business).  On our proposal date, we finally dined at Canter's with delicious gooey melty chocolate cake and decaf coffee.  Since he clearly wasn't dropping to one knee in a deli if it wasn't right for a first date, I wasn't surprised when he packed me back into the car as we headed to…

Largo at the Coronet.

Our first date may have started out at Canters, but it went so well that we ended up at Largo – an intimate local music venue that attracts world class acts in a small dinner-bar setting.  Three years later, Largo has moved locations to a larger theater, and he took me to a Jon Brion show (we frequently attend these shows, which are a local institution, complete with Brion's live looping/mixing and surprise guest stars like Fiona Apple or Crowded House), where J had reserved front row seats.  (Um, there are NO reserved seats at Largo, so there was definite behind-the-scenes wrangling here.)  I sat through the performance, terrified that there was going to be some public proposal or song, but calmed by the fact that Jon Brion is an artist who probably wouldn’t stoop to participate in fans’ proposals.  (Turns out I was right, and J had indeed written a song, asked Brion to perform it, and had been rejected.  Whew.)

By the time the show ended at midnight, I was confused in my continued ringlessness (because that was a mighty elaborate non-proposal date, right?)   The adventure was done and it had been great, but we were heading home.  (As J now says, my confusion was all part of the plan.  He knew I’d get suspicious when he showed up at work, so his only possibility of surprise was to confuse me with the process. It was a job well done.)  Up until the moment he asked me to wait outside our door for his okay to enter our apartment, I was really wondering.  And even though I finally knew that yes - tonight was the night - I still fell apart when I walked in to see a large beribboned sign and flowers:


And then I walked into the next room of our apartment to see a second beribboned sign and flowers


And in the last room, he was waiting on one knee, underneath the last two signs


My answer?  A few wordless nods, before I managed to blurt out an “of course!” We then spent the next few hours immersed in our private joy, sharing words and moments that still make me glow with perfect happiness.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Organizing for Marriage Equality

With the passage of Proposition 8 last year, marriage equality was dealt a fierce blow in California.  But the experience has taught proponents of equal rights that we need to fight harder and differently to win both the next battle and the fight for gay marriage.  Both my partner and I are committed to winning this fight - our love and the opportunity for us to legally marry has thrown the injustice in sharp relief, and we are actively searching for ways to express our support for this cause throughout our wedding planning process.

This upcoming weekend in Los Angeles offers us, and other committed individuals and couples, the chance to learn how to effectively organize a grassroots campaign, specifically in support of marriage equality.

OUTWest Boot Camp will train and engage activists in fundamental political campaign organizing skills, ranging from fundraising, to community organizing, to communications to political organizing.  This two-day interactive workshop will take place at USC from 8:30 am - 5:30 pm on Sept 12-13. Registration is only $11, though larger donations will help support the Courage Campaign's cause.

I have a background in political organizing, and I'm looking forward to putting it to use for such an important civil rights cause.  To find out more about how to join the fight by registering for next weekend's workshops, please visit OUTWest Boot Camp.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Happy Friday

Wishing you all a lovely Labor Day weekend.  Hoping you have as much fun as these guests (and photographer) clearly had at a recent Downtown LA/Cerritos wedding.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silent Movie Theater

Los Angeles, you are trying to defeat me, but I refuse to let you.  Every time I find a venue that seems perfect, it turns out that it's only perfect if you have a spare $5,000-$10,000 lying around (and that's just to rent an empty room/field/space).  I am stubbornly convinced that if I only google a little bit more, with a different combination of words, or find yet another wedding venue list, that I will finally find that beautiful/convenient/bring your own caterer/byob/no noise restriction/ceremony+reception/inexpensive perfect-for-us location.

I'm at the point where I'm revisiting search options that I know won't work, like when you get up to look in the refrigerator again, even when nothing was appealing five minutes ago. And so, I returned again to The Knot, even when nothing was appealing to me five months ago. Just in case, I searched through their real Southern California wedding profiles to see if they profiled any creative budget weddings that could give me a lead.  Sigh.  Since I'm not in the market for a members-only beach club wedding or a $15,000 Downtown Los Angeles location (though the Disney Concert Hall would have been a spectacular setting, I'm sure), about 99% of the profiles were not remotely relevant to my needs.

However, persistence has its benefits and without this visit to the Knot I might have missed the spectacular idea of getting married at the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax.

 Photo via The Knot

No, I have no pricing information whatsoever, but it sure sounds like a spectacular idea for a movie-geek or musical theater couple (of which, ahem, there might be a few in Los Angeles.)  This restored art deco theater is really a piece of Los Angeles history, and has a great set-up for a unique party.  There's a stage in front (for ceremonies, speeches, performances, movie screenings, slideshows, whatever), a cappuccino lounge upstairs, and a Spanish patio in back that would be perfect for a smaller reception of about 100.


I have conflicting dreams of either getting married barefoot at the beach or at a late night Downtown loft party, so Vintage Hollywood Glam doesn't fit with either of those ideas and I won't even bother to research costs and venue restrictions.  I'll just be happy that off-the-beaten track options can still surprise me at this point in the venue search and hope that my mad googling helps out another couple in need. 

This also reminds me - I last went to the Silent Movie Theater for cult-classic Christmas movies, so it might be time to see what's on the program again (silent films, occult, Muppet movies, cult classic, forgotten Hollywood) and head over for a date night.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Girl Proposes to Boy

Our egalitarian proposal wasn't anything like I'd planned. Since the proposal was more important to him, I thought it made sense to be ready with a counter-proposal, whenever he got around to it.  Which was supposed to be "soon" (this was back in April).

So I decided on/purchased him an engagement gift, picked out a silver ring for him, and started pestering J about his ring size.  (Because darnit, it was an open secret that he was working on my ring, so I figured he had access to a jeweler and finger measuring options.)  But, when I never got a response, I started to worry.  Not about the proposal, but about the timing of his proposal and therefore the timeframe for giving him a calendar-sensitive engagement-ring-equivalent gift.

As the deadline for his calendar-sensitive gift approached, I got more and more nervous.  I gave up on the idea of his silver ring and decided on a twisted pipecleaner stand-in ring. And I finally gave up on the whole counter-proposal idea and faced down the need to develop my own proposal to him.  Men - I never before appreciated how daunting this task is, and all the pressure to make something meaningful. Congrats to all of you who manage to pull it off with panache and style.

I, on the other hand, was much less panacheful or stylish.  I went with simple and heartfelt, planning to surprise him with a candlelit picnic with homemade Mediterranean food from our first date. I had a friend design a card that included phrases and images of personal significance, and I planned to hit up Michaels for the pipe cleaners. Well... I should have known better than to get excited about my plans. Several of my male friends have stories of proposal attempts gone awry and I can now join their ranks.

Instead of a candlelit picnic, we were sitting on my bed mid-afternoon, trying to schedule our move into a new apartment.  Remember the whole calendar-sensitive gift issue?  Yeah, he couldn't understand why I kept refusing to schedule our move on the most convenient upcoming weekend and I couldn't think quickly enough to come up with a good answer.
"But why not?"
"Because we can't"
"But why not?!"
"Because we can't" 
Is not a productive discussion.

Finally, frustrated and backed into a mental corner, I blurted out,
"Because you're not going to be here - you're going to be in Tennessee!" 
I watched a slow look of comprehension pass over his face, followed by a massive smile. He knew immediately that Tennessee meant the Bonnaroo music and arts festival.  Bonnaroo takes place in Tennessee each year, and he's wanted to go ever since we met.  This year, in particular, the lineup included many of his all-time favorite bands.  (Which, for a music geek, is pretty important stuff.)  Back in February I had watched him add up his expenses for 2009 - which included my ring - and saw him crestfallen when he realized that the music festival was out of his budget.  I decided right then what the perfect ring-equivalent gift would be.  So I secretly coordinated with his sister (who had been to Bonnaroo before and decided to go again for a brother-sister weekend) about his flight, ticket and camping needs.

Sitting on my bed mid-afternoon, I had no silver ring, no pipecleaner temporary ring, no printed card (it was still in a file on my computer), and no Mediterranean food at the ready to mark the occasion, so I simply took his hand, wrapped my finger around his as a makeshift ring, and asked if he would marry me.  He said yes.

We schmooped and cried a little and then got back to planning the move (for the weekend after Bonnaroo.) And then I got back to waiting for his egalitarian co-proposal to come so we could finally be officially engaged, instead of just knowing that someday, yes, we're definitely going to get married.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Green Wedding vs a Sustainable Wedding

I am thrilled, genuinely THRILLED, that eco-friendly wedding planning has become mainstream. In fact, there was a big green wedding planning event just this past weekend in Los Angeles that seemed to have a few really worthwhile speaker panels. 

I didn’t go.

Why? Both because I'm not at the "details" planning point and because I’m somewhat leery about green wedding planning being treated like any other commodified wedding “trend,” like favors or birdcage veils.  This sort of bridal fetishization can easily lead to another level of wedding consumption competition – instead of just a giant fondant cake, I’ll get an ORGANIC fondant cake! Instead of a standard invitation suite (card, reception info insert, map insert, reply card, etc) I’ll have the whole thing letterpressed on recycled paper made from reclaimed wood and mixed with vegetable seeds so you can grow a garden!  Yay – now it’s green and eco-friendly!

Let me be clear - there is nothing wrong with organic cake and recycled paper invitation suites, and they are vastly preferably to their standard wedding equivalents. But I've noticed a trend in mainstream bridal media as it does the same thing to “green” wedding planning as they’ve done to wedding dresses, cakes, favors, and other wedding day details – they’ve made it part of the ultimate photo shoot, with every item Oscar-photo ready. "Green" has gone high-end, and it's just another detail to worry about in crafting the perfect, aspirational wedding. (Please note that I have no idea if this past weekend's event stressed green products over sustainable planning, since I didn't go, so I'm not commenting on the specific event but on general green wedding trends).

Except to me, sustainability is a critical driving force in my career and personal life.  In fact, my career is dedicated to large-scale sustainability practices and projects (so far, in the vehicle and alternative fuel sector) and sustainability will definitely impact how we plan our wedding and our lives together.  To me, a sustainable wedding isn’t about buying the same old wedding stuff but making sure it’s made from “green” materials, it’s about thinking about each detail, and whether it really matters and is necessary for the joy of our day.  If it adds to the real beauty and sentiment of the day, great, and let’s figure out how simplify it, buy it secondhand, make it, rent/borrow it, or buy it new with recycled materials.  If not, and it’s just stuff, I don’t have to care.  

Don’t get me wrong on green event planning - given that large lavish-ish events will always exist in some form, I’d definitely prefer for them to use organic catering, d├ęcor crafted from recycled metals and various post-consumer reimaginings, and LED or low-VOC options for lighting (for example).  And if you can afford couture (and/or were already planning to go the couture route), I’d heartily recommend using a local dress designer who makes her art in non-sweatshop-conditions using sustainable materials.  Maybe even something beautiful like this:

But as for me, the bride-to-be who can’t afford couture, I’m okay with sustainable.  And I’m hoping this blog will reflect the simple, stylish side of local sustainable options. 

Thrift store mismatched dishes and homemade cloth napkins from a Backyard Wedding

So does anyone have any local thrift store gems to recommend?